Now, sing along with me, Feasters… It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Didn’t put you in the mood? Well, bah humbug! Actually, it’s a little too early for me too. Any mention of Christmas gives me a mild attack of the panics over where the year has disappeared. Although I do like the reappearance of fruit mince tarts in the bakeries. You can never have enough of those fruity sugary happy pills in your life.

Just as you can never have enough good reading! And today on Friday Feast I’m delighted to host a novelist who knows exactly how to produce a good read. Sydney based contemporary women’s fiction author Christine Stinson bounded to fame with her engaging debut novel Getting Even With Fran, a high school reunion story that celebrates friendship and so much more. Her latest release is the truly heart-warming It Takes A Village, a book I’m reading now and absolutely loving.

Check it out.

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

 

Growing up in conservative, postwar Australia isn’t easy. For eight-year-old Sophie, who has just been told that she’s a ‘bastard’, it seems that she lives in a world of secrets, unanswered questions and whispers.

Who is her father and why did her mother never tell anyone who he was?

With only her reclusive grandfather to raise her, and more than one neighbour expecting her to go off the rails like her mother—after all, apples rarely fall far from the tree—Sophie struggles to find her place in the world.

In a time when experiences are shared around the kitchen table, over the back fence or up at the corner shop, Sophie learns that life is rarely simple, love is always complicated and sometimes it takes more than blood ties to make a family.

 

This is a charming story and available now from good bookstores. You can also order the paperback from Booktopia or Bookworld (which also sells the ebook). For ebook readers, try Kindle, Kobo or Google Play. If you’d like to read a sample first, there’s a juicy big excerpt on Christine’s website.

And now I hand you over to Christine and a little bit of early Christmas joy. Go on, you know you want it!

 

The Silly Season Is Nigh

 

Greetings from sunny Sydney. I’m delighted to be on Friday Feast since I love to cook and eat!

It wasn’t always thus (the cooking part, not the eating…) Before I was married my culinary forte was Vegemite on toast. My husband was no better: beyond shoving a sausage roll inside a buttered roll with lots of tomato sauce, he had nothing. I had to learn to cook by trial and lots of error. (I’m on my third complete set of saucepans. The first two sets didn’t survive the learning process.) Now that I’m more competent and my efforts less flammable, I find cooking a satisfying process. There’s nothing better than sitting around a table with family and friends sharing something edible! Throw in some wine and it’s perfect.

That said, with the silly season fast approaching and all the entertaining that entails, I’m all for recipes with shortcuts. Something that looks good, tastes great, doesn’t take all day and can be done ahead of time. These recipes fill that bill. The potato salad can be made a few days ahead and goes beautifully with Christmas ham, pork and seafood, and the mini Christmas puddings look terrific, taste good and keep for a fortnight in the fridge.

Potato salad:

1 and a half kgs chat potatoes, quartered and boiled until just soft (about 10 mins)

Large handful chopped shallots (about 4 shallots, green part included)

6 rashers of bacon, dry fried until crisp then chopped

150 mls French dressing

300ml carton of sour light cream (so this potato salad isn’t fattening!!!)

2 tabs mayonnaise

When potatoes are cooked, drain and tip into a serving bowl with most of the shallots thrown in, too. Pour the French dressing over the top and allow to cool for a couple of hours. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise, add to the potato/shallot/dressing mix, stir to combine then scatter the bacon pieces and the last of the shallots over the top as garnish. Keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Mini Christmas puddings:

I store bought dark Christmas cake

1 jar fruit mince

2 tabs brandy

White chocolate for melting

Green and red snakes.

Crumble the cake into a mixing bowl, drain off about half the liquid from the fruit mince and throw the rest of the contents of the jar into the bowl, plus the brandy. Mix well with fingers/spoon, roll into balls about two-thirds the size of a golf ball. Melt the white chocolate, drizzle a teaspoon on each ball for the icing, cut snakes into very small pieces (about two-thirds of a centimetre each) and drop a red or green piece (or both) on top of the icing. These look great on a Christmas dessert platter along with shortbread biscuits and chocolates.

 

Thanks for those fab recipes, Christine. Nothing like a good (non-fattening!) potato salad, plus anything with fruit mince gets my vote. There’s something about the luscious super sweet intensity of fruit mince that really gets my tastebuds dancing. And I bet those little puds look absolutely gorgeous too.

Now, Feasters. Christine and I know you’re a clever lot, so what’s your favourite do-ahead Christmas idea? The pud goes without saying, but what other sneaky trick do you employ to make the silly season that bit less hectic? This year I’m going to make some long-keeping edible gifts and package them up nicely. What’s your idea or are you simply going to wing-it and hope for the best? We’d love to hear your take.

If you’d like to discover more about Christine and her heart-warming books please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook.

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